Claiming Democracy – Building Citizenship: A case study of Bunge la Mwananchi as a social movement and a public sphere.

Start date: 28 May, 2013 End date: 7 July, 2013 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A13 Countries: Kenya Institutions: Roskilde University (RUC), Denmark Grant recipient: Ida Dalgaard Steffensen Total grant: 14,773 DKK



This is a case study of the social and political movement Bunge la Mwananchi, based on empirical data collected during a 4-week fieldtrip to Kenya, inspired by constructivist grounded theory. It integrates social movements theory, public sphere theory and African political culture to examine to what extent Bunge la Mwananchi – the People’s Parliament – in Nairobi, is a social movement. The movement is engaged in a struggle for social and political change by creating a public sphere for the grass roots. This happens within a fragile political environment with a newly elected government and a constitution from 2010. Therefore, the thesis further explores what kind of public space the movement creates for its participants.
Based on the analysis of the empirical data, the study finds a division within the movement into a core and a periphery. These constitute two parallel public spheres; one based on kinship and socio-political issues, the other on systemic change and visions for how to make a better future. They can be seen as a dialogue forum and an action forum. The two public spheres function separately, but are also co-dependent. Without the other, neither would constitute a social movement, as one lacks change-makers and the other participants. Bunge la Mwananchi is found to form an arena, where participants find enlightenment and inspiration, a space where they can collectively engage in shaping a common will and create the change they want to see.